Cole Chiappialle has come a long way. From the loss of his mother, to conquering knee injuries and transferring from Penn State, it has been a long road for the Shippensburg University junior in the past two years.
Chiappialle started off his career in 2014 as a walk-on at Penn State University. Going into Penn State’s annual Blue-White scrimmage game, Chiappialle was dealing with a hardship off the field. Five weeks before the game, his mother died at the age of 53.
“My mom passed away a few weeks before the game, and that was a really tough time,” Chiappialle said. “I really went out in that game with a lot of emotion on my shoulders. Really, my thing was to go play for her, and that’s what I did. I went out and played for her.”
Not only did Chiappialle come out and have a great game, Chiappialle shined, carrying the ball nine times for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Chiappialle ran for a 23-yard touchdown and a 1-yard touchdown, while also catching two passes for 17 yards.
“That was my top performance, right there. That was fun,” Chiappialle said. “It was just me being who I am. I got a chance to show what I could do up there, and it was an exciting time for me being at such a big school in front of 70,000 fans. And, it was definitely a highlight.”
After an emotional start to his Penn State career, Chiappialle battled more adversity. Chiappialle tore his meniscus in his right knee, sidelining him for two weeks. Less than a month later, he tore his ACL against Michigan State.
The year consisted of two knee surgeries and a ton of rehabilitation for Chiappialle.
“The ACL was a big injury, and that was tough,” Chiappialle said. “It was a long process, and a lot of rehab just to get back to where you were before. You just have to take it day by day, and take little steps here and there. But, that was definitely a tough process for me.”
After the injuries, Chiappialle made a decision to transfer to SU. Chiappialle was quickly introduced as a member of the team and has been an important piece ever since. For him, it was easy to pick SU as the school to transfer to.
“To me, it was just a good fit,” Chiappialle said. “It had good coaches, football, and I wanted to go to a school where I had a chance to win a championship. And, looking at SU all around, it was an easy decision for me.”
Transitioning has been a challenge for Chiappialle, but football has been something that has gone extremely well for the junior.
“It wasn’t hard at all,” Chiappialle said. “Coaches and the players all accepted me and I thank them for that. I just came in as who I am and was nice to everyone. And, just because I came from a high Division I school, I’m still just a normal guy hanging out with the guys. They really accepted me and I appreciated that.”
Overall, for Chiappialle, it was a long haul to get back on the football field, but he says it seems like it went quickly.
“It was a very long process from transferring and rehab, but it feels good,” Chiappialle said. “When you’re in the process, it seems so slow. But when you look back on it, it went by extremely fast.”
Chiappialle enjoyed his first big game of the season on Sept. 17 against Clarion University. In that 41–17 win, he rushed for 137 yards on 20 carries, and also scored two touchdowns.
“Confidence wise, I definitely needed it. And in my first two games, I didn’t play the way I think I can, but it had been awhile since I had ran the ball in a real game,” Chiappialle said. “It was over two years, so that was a big game confidence wise to have my first big game at Seth Grove.”
The season has been a productive one in general for Chiappialle. Through SU’s first eight games, he has rushed for 369 yards on 83 carries, while scoring eight rushing touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns, and has caught a touchdown for the Red Raiders. He leads the team with 11 touchdowns on the season.
As a team, SU has a chance to accomplish its preseason goal of making it to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship game.
“A championship — that was our goal when we started camp, and we still have everything in front of us that we can do. So we’re working hard at practice, and obviously, our goal is a championship,” Chiappialle said.
The Red Raiders will battle Kutztown University, with the PSAC East Division on the line.
The Red Raiders, (6-2, 4–1 PSAC East), will host Kutztown, (5–3, 5–0 PSAC East) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Seth Grove Stadium.
For Chiappialle, the road to SU was a tough one. But, he has made a huge impact in his first season, and looks to continue his success as a member of the Red Raider football team.